WASHINGTON – The surge that has been a Washington Wizards staple at the start of games was not there in Game 4.
It was the third quarter not the first, that proved to be the Celtics’ undoing.
Washington, behind a 26-0 blitz in the third quarter, broke open a close game that ended with a 121-102 Wizards win.
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John Wall led Washington with 27 points and 12 assists while his backcourt partner Bradley Beal had 29 points.
The Celtics got 19 points from Isaiah Thomas with Terry Rozier scoring 16 (although most of his points came when the game was already out of the Celtics' reach).
And with the Wizards victory, we now have a 2-2 series with Games 5 and 6 in Boston and Washington on Wednesday and Friday, respectively.
For most of the first half, Boston seemed to have the game where they wanted to with a lead that peaked at 12 points before halftime.
It was in stark contrast to how things have played out in the previous three games, all of which included the Wizards going on strong runs in the first quarter which, prior to Game 4, ended with the Wizards ahead by an average of 16.3 points per game.
But Boston got off to a much better start in Game 4.
It was the finish – specifically the third quarter – that ultimately found them on the short end of a second straight blowout loss.
With Boston ahead 53-52, Jae Crowder missed an open 3-pointer, a common problem for him and the Celtics throughout this series.
Washington scored the game’s next 24 points to take control of the game. From there, it became a matter of when not if the Wizards were going to win.
Brad Stevens’ club was down 74-53 when he called a time-out with 5:00 to play in the quarter.
By then, it was too late.
While the lead itself wasn’t an insurmountable amount that Boston could not rally from, their play suggested otherwise.
Boston couldn’t make shots, open or contested. They turned the ball over repeatedly which led to easy transition points for the Wizards.
The Celtics looked and played like a defeated team, as if they had done all they could but it wasn’t enough.
At least not on the Wizards’ home floor, for sure.
Washington’s defense forced turnovers, got out in transition and finished off plays with lay-ups, dunks and an occasional 3-point play in building a dominant lead in the third.
Trailing 90-68 going into the fourth, the Celtics had turned the ball over 15 times at that point which led to 30 points for the Wizards who not surprisingly, were blowing away Boston in several categories such as rebounding (38-23), second-chance points (18-8), points in the paint (36-22) and fast-break points (25-9).
The Celtics have shown themselves to a gritty, never-give-up kind of team all season. But they are in a predicament that’s very different than their last series which after four games, was tied at two games apiece.
In the Chicago series, Boston was returning with momentum and lots of answers to what they needed to do in order to continue winning.
But at this point, the Celtics find themselves with lots of questions and no clear-cut answers.
Avery Bradley’s defense on John Wall appears to be really taxing his body, which has led to him struggling with his shot most of this series.
And Jae Crowder seemingly can’t make a shot which is why the Wizards have successfully gambled repeatedly in leaving him open.
Thomas had a strong first half, but was among the biggest reasons for the Celtics falling behind during the 26-0 run in the third with all his turnovers trying to split Washington’s constant double-teams.
Boston still has home court advantage and because of that, they are not in a win-or-go-home stage yet.
But between now and Wednesday’s Game 5 matchup, this team has a lot of soul-searching to do if they want to extend their season beyond this series.